I have just come out from the Parliamentary session today.
I refer to the article “Govt undertakes ‘rigorous assessment’ when considering preservation of properties” (Today, Jul 3).
It states that “Mr Wong said he had discussed the issues surrounding the deed with Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean as PM Lee had said that he would “leave it to (Mr Teo) to handle the specific dealings between NHB and the executors on the deed of gift”. PM Lee subsequently informed Mr Wong that he had written to Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee, in his capacity as beneficiary, “indicating to them that notwithstanding his position on the deed of gift, he would not object to the exhibition, as he did not want to put NHB in a difficult position”, Mr Wong said”.
Is it normal practice for the Minister for National Development to inform the PM of a gift to the National Heritage Board (NHB) (as was said in the speeches in Parliament today)?
Since the PM had recused himself from the house – why didn’t he recuse himself from the gift of items from the estate by the executors to the NHB, given the conflict of interest and personal interest, and arguably, yet another crossing of the public and personal lines?
As to the Minister’s explanation of the initial legal position that one of the beneficiary’s (PM) objections to the terms and conditions of the gift by the executors, need to be addressed as the Will had then not been probated yet – arguably, by the same token and argument – how did the Minister know then that the PM was a beneficiary, and notified him about the gift?
Also, did the Minister consult the Law Ministry or the Attorney-General as to the correct legal position, or did he make the determination and decision with the DPM?
As an analogy – if the COO of a public institition comes across a matter which the CEO has a personal interest (and therefore a conflict of interest) – then he promptly informs the CEO – and the CEO instead of recusing himself – instructs the COO to refer the matter to the deputy CEO (who reports directly and is subordinate to the CEO) – if this is not arguably “conflict of interest” or poor governance – what is?
Leong Sze Hian